Walleys Quarry and council reach agreement over ‘nuisance’ landfill

Following a mediation process, Walleys Quarry Ltd has withdrawn an appeal against a nuisance abatement notice issued by Newcastle-under-Lyme borough council.

The community around the Walleys Quarry landfill has complained about odours from the Staffordshire site for several years (picture: Newcastle-under-Lyme borough council)

For several years, the community around the Walleys Quarry landfill has complained about odours from the Staffordshire site (see letsrecycle.com story).

Newcastle-under-Lyme served Walleys Quarry Ltd the notice in August 2021, requiring the company to abate the odour nuisance within five months and prevent its recurrence.

Walleys Quarry lodged an appeal against the notice that September, kicking off a legal process which lasted more than a year.

Settlement

Now, mediation between the parties has led to District Judge Grego, sitting at North Staffordshire Magistrates’ Court yesterday (6 October), issuing an order ratifying an out-of-court settlement.

As part of the settlement, Walleys Quarry will pay Newcastle-under-Lyme £400,000 towards the cost of responding to the appeal and £60,000 to enable the council to continue monitoring levels of hydrogen sulphide in the community.

Cllr Martin Hamilton, Newcastle-under-Lyme’s chief executive, said the agreement was “hugely significant”, while Nigel Bowen, Walleys Quarry’s CEO, said his company was pleased to reach “a level of mutual understanding and agreement” with the council.

Community

Lord Carnwath of Notting Hill, a former Supreme Court Justice, led the mediation process. In a statement, he said: “Walleys Quarry Limited acknowledge that the site has been the source of community complaint and the council acknowledge that Walleys Quarry Limited have improved their operational practices such that odour emissions have recently reduced significantly and best practicable means are currently in place.”

The Environment Agency reports weekly on odour emissions from the site (picture: Environment Agency)

The Environment Agency reports weekly on odour emissions from the site, measuring against WHO annoyance guidelines. In the last six months, the Agency produced 25 reports, each time including measurements from four locations. During this period, “just eight” of the 100 reporting figures exceeded the WHO’s guidance levels by 10%, Walleys Quarry says, and none exceeded 20%.

The agreement recognises that the various plans that Walleys Quarry has in place, including for phasing and capping and for gas management, represent “best practice means”. Newcastle-under-Lyme says it accepted this “on the advice of its specialist advisors” and due to a significant reduction in odours.

The agreement also recognises that what constitutes best practice means changes over time. Walleys Quarry must maintain best practice means and demonstrate to the council that they meet requirements at all times.

The agreement commits the council and Walleys Quarry to engaging “constructively and in good faith”. Walleys Quarry must share information relating to best practice means with Newcastle-under-Lyme and allow council officers access to inspect the site.

Walleys Quarry has also committed to specific measures relating to community engagement, including publishing its operational plans, providing advance notification of activities which might give rise to odours in the community, and publishing recordings of its meetings online.

‘Positive outcome’

Cllr Hamilton said Newcastle-under-Lyme and Walleys Quarry achieved the settlement through both working “constructively” with Lord Carnwath.

Newcastle-under-Lyme first served Walleys Quarry the abatement notice in August 2021 (picture: Newcastle-under-Lyme borough council)

“The abatement notice, first served by the council in August last year, is now in place and it legally requires Walleys Quarry Ltd to stop landfill gas odours from causing significant problems for residents,” Cllr Hamilton said. “Through mediation we have been able to agree with Walleys Quarry Ltd a range of measures, such as improved access to information about activities on the site, which should be of real benefit to residents.”

Walleys Quarry CEO, Nigel Bowen said he welcomed the council’s approach to the process and their “commitment to seeing a positive outcome”.

This outcome delivers the best possible result for the community

He said: “This outcome delivers the best possible result for the community in establishing committed co-operation between Walleys Quarry Ltd and Newcastle-under-Lyme borough council, allowing us to move forward together in the best interests of those residents living and working around the quarry.”

Regulation

The Environment Agency regulates the Walleys Quarry site under an environmental permit. While the Agency is the primary regulator for the site, the council has a duty to investigate odour complaints.

The Agency published a plan containing the measures it required Walleys Quarry to implement to achieve a sustained long-term reduction in hydrogen sulphide emissions in October 2021. An Agency spokesperson told letsrecycle.com that, following a review in September, they were satisfied the strategy “remained effective”.

“We continue to actively regulate and assess Walleys Quarry Ltd’s compliance with its environmental permit,” the spokesperson added. “Our officers regularly conduct site inspections and complete remote audits to ensure that the company remains on track to deliver on its obligations.”

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